- The Angels demoted yesterday’s starter Jhonathan Diaz to Triple-A, recalling Cooper Criswell in his place, the team announced. Diaz made his Major League debut last night, giving up two earned runs on two hits and four walks while striking out two over 1 2/3 innings. Criswell made his own debut under similar circumstances earlier this year, giving up three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in his lone start on the year.
TODAY: After throwing a bullpen session, the Angels now believe the Ohtani is well enough to start this Sunday’s ballgame against Oakland, per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (via Twitter).
Sept. 16: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch during the Angels’ three-game series with the Athletics, though the two-way star had been tentatively slated to start tomorrow’s series opener. Angels manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com’s Ryan Herrera and other reporters that Ohtani came away with a sore arm after a game of catch on Wednesday, so the team will keep him from pitching so his condition can be further monitored. Ohtani will continue to regularly serve as the Angels’ DH, though it is possible Ohtani may have pitched his last game of 2021.
While the situation “hasn’t gotten there yet” in terms of shutting Ohtani down as a pitcher, Maddon said “we just have to wait and see” if Ohtani could take the hill for the 22nd time this season.
“He’ll continue to do his thing and be playing catch, and then we’ll determine if he feels good enough to [pitch] again,” Maddon said. “So I don’t know. I think he can, but we’ve been caught in these circumstances a lot this year.”
There isn’t much left for the Angels to play for this season, so it wouldn’t make much sense for the team to take a risk with Ohtani during what has already been an injury-riddled campaign for the Halos. Losing Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon for the majority of the season spelled doom for a club that needed all the offensive help it could get considering the Angels’ pitching and defensive struggles.
The one big bright spot has been Ohtani’s season for the ages. Combining excellent pitching with elite offense, Ohtani has a 3.36 ERA and 28.8% strikeout rate over 115 1/3 innings on the mound this year, and a .254/.336/.599 slash line and 44 home runs over 564 plate appearances. This incredible performance has evoked comparisons to Babe Ruth, turned Ohtani into a household name, and made him the presumptive frontrunner for the AL MVP Award.
Quite a bit of Ohtani’s production, however, came in the first half of the season. Ohtani has hit only .191/.331/.376 with seven home runs over his last 172 PA, and his most recent pitching outing (on September 10) saw him allow six runs over 3 1/3 innings of work against the Astros. Some decline was probably inevitable given Ohtani’s meteoric start, and his unique workload in staying prepared to both pitch and regularly hit against Major League competition.
Ohtani also pitched only 1 2/3 innings total in 2019-20 due to injuries, including a recovery from Tommy John surgery. That said, whatever wear and tear Ohtani might be feeling has seemingly impacted his bat more than his arm. Apart from that one mediocre start against the Astros, Ohtani has otherwise posted a 2.20 ERA over 45 innings since the All-Star break.
The Angels also reinstated righty Jose Marte from the injured list. Marte, 25, made just one appearance this season, and in fact, for his career thus far, tossing two scoreless innings against Cleveland on August 20. He was originally signed by the Giants and sent to the Angels this season as part of the Tony Watson deal.
In terms of departures, veteran Junior Guerra was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain and Elvis Peguero was returned to Triple-A. Guerra has soaked up his share of innings for the halos this season, though he’s struggled to the tune of a 6.06 ERA/4.74 FIP over those 65 1/3 innings. Peguero made just three appearances with the club totaling 2 1/3 innings.
The Royals announced the hiring of veteran executive Gene Watson as vice president and assistant general manager of major league scouting, relays Alec Lewis of the Athletic. Alden González of ESPN reported Wednesday that Watson would be taking on a role in the Kansas City front office.
Watson is no stranger to the Royals, as he previously spent fourteen years in the organization as a scout and executive. He’d ascended to the role of senior director of pro scouting and assistant to the general manager before departing last December to join the Angels’ front office. Watson interviewed for the Angels’ GM job last winter and ultimately accepted a special advisor role in Los Angeles after the team hired Perry Minasian to lead baseball operations. (He also interviewed for the Astros’ GM job that eventually went to James Click the previous offseason).
Kansas City will welcome the well-respected evaluator back into the fold as part of a broader shakeup of the front office structure. On Tuesday, the Royals promoted longtime GM Dayton Moore to president of baseball operations, bumping assistant GM J.J. Piccolo up to general manager in the process.
The Angels announced they’ve designated reliever Jake Petricka for assignment. The move creates active roster space for Alex Cobb, who has been reinstated from the 10-day injured list to start this afternoon’s game against the White Sox. As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register notes, the move opens a spot on the 40-man roster for reliever José Marte, who is expected to be activated from the COVID-19 injured list tomorrow.
Los Angeles selected Petricka in late August, setting the right-hander up for his first MLB action in two years. Petricka earned that promotion by tossing 31 2/3 frames of 3.69 ERA ball with quality peripherals in Triple-A. He’s been bombed in his seven big league appearances, though, allowing ten runs on six hits and seven walks in six innings. The Angels will place Petricka on waivers in the coming days, and the veteran would have the right to elect free agency if he passes through unclaimed.
Cobb has missed nearly six weeks with wrist inflammation. That was his second IL stint of the year, as the 33-year-old also missed a little more than the minimum ten days in May because of a blister. Acquired from the Orioles over the winter, Cobb has been limited to fifteen starts and 77 2/3 innings.
To his credit, Cobb has been effective when healthy enough to take the ball. After struggling through a few below-average seasons in Baltimore, he’s turned things around to post a 3.82 ERA with Los Angeles. Cobb has significantly improved his strikeout and swinging strike rates in the process, vaulting from one of the league’s lowest whiff rates to above-average marks.
Cobb hasn’t seen a huge change in his raw stuff, with his pitch velocities and movements right in line with prior seasons. Instead, he’s been more adept this season at locating pitches just off the edges and avoiding the heart of the strike zone. He’s also been more willing than he was last year to lean on his splitter after falling behind batters, preventing opponents from zeroing in and teeing off on his sinker in hitters’ counts.
The Angels have long since fallen out of contention, but the next few starts will be meaningful for Cobb personally. He’s in the final season of the four-year deal he signed with the O’s over the 2017-18 offseason and will hit free agency this winter. Coming off a six-week absence due to an arm injury, demonstrating that he’s back at his early-season form could be crucial in setting his market value for potential suitors.
An arrest warrant was recently issued against Angels infielder Luis Rengifo in his home country of Venezuela, according to reports from local news outlets (h/t to Sam Blum of the Athletic). Authorities allege that Rengifo and certain members of his family falsified divorce papers in order to sell property that jointly belonged to Rengifo and his estranged wife to Rengifo’s sister without his wife’s consent in 2019. Rengifo’s father, sister and an attorney allegedly involved in the process — all of whom remain in Venezuela — have already been arrested, according to reports.
It is presently unknown if/how the allegations will affect Rengifo’s playing status. Blum notes that local reports were also unclear whether the Venezuelan government plans to submit a request to have Rengifo extradited to face charges.
The Angels have declined comment. Rengifo released a statement through a spokesperson, stating “I am aware of the allegations in Venezuela and have hired a new attorney to defend me and my family. Due to the pending legal proceedings and investigation phase in Venezuela, I am not permitted to comment any further on this matter” (via Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times). Rengifo remains on the active roster and got the start at shortstop tonight against the White Sox.
Mike Trout hasn’t played since May 18 on account of a right calf strain, as his recovery has been frustratingly slow. With just over three weeks remaining in the regular season — and with the team set to miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year — it looks increasingly unlikely we’ll see Trout again in 2021.
Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged that Trout likely won’t make it back, telling reporters (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and Jack Harris of the L.A. Times) he’d be “very surprised” if the three-time MVP returned this year. However, the Anaheim skipper added that the team hasn’t made any official decision about shutting Trout down as of yet, as the 30-year-old continues to work out with the team in hopes of getting back onto the field.
There’s little reason for the Angels to push Trout unless he’s fully healthy. The team has had another lost season despite his best efforts and an MVP-caliber year from Shohei Ohtani. Over 146 plate appearances, Trout was hitting .333/.466/.624 with eight home runs. That’s not only the best offensive production of any player in the league with 100+ trips to the dish, it was on pace to be the best season of Trout’s illustrious career. His 191 wRC+ suggests he was ninety-one percentage points better than the league average hitter on a rate basis. Had he carried that over a full season, that’d have narrowly edged out his 2018 output (.312/.460/.628) for his best ever offensive work.
When healthy, Trout is arguably still the game’s best overall player. The Angels plan to make another run at contending in 2022, and having him at full strength next Opening Day will be the top priority. The nine-time All-Star would love to make it back for at least a couple games in order to kick off a normal offseason, but the team surely won’t take any chances with an injury that has already proven extremely troublesome.
Jo Adell will likely be penciled in alongside Trout in next year’s season-opening outfield. The Angels placed the former top prospect on the 10-day injured list due to a left abdominal strain, though, and Maddon suggested he’s probably not going to return this year (via Fletcher). The 22-year-old mashed at a .289/.342/.592 clip in Triple-A this season, although his big league output (.246/.295/.408 over 140 plate appearances) has been a bit below average.
Adell hasn’t yet produced much in the majors, but he’s taken steps to put his disastrous rookie season behind him. Adell made his MLB debut last year but hit only .161/.212/.266 while striking out in 41.7% of his first 132 plate appearances. His bottom line numbers in 2021 represent a significant improvement, and that’s come with some encouraging process developments. Adell has cut his strikeout rate from that untenable 2020 mark to a 22.9% figure that’s right in line with the league average. He’s improved his contact rate by nearly thirteen percentage points in the process.
There’s still more to iron out, to be certain. Adell continues to be highly aggressive at the dish, chasing pitches outside the strike zone at an alarming rate. That has contributed to a very low 5.7% walk percentage that’ll need to be improved upon if he’s to reach his full potential. But Adell has made demonstrable strides this season, and he’s not much older than many of the top college prospects from this summer’s draft class. (First overall pick Henry Davis, for instance, was born in September 1999, while Adell was born in April of the same year).
Fellow top prospect Brandon Marsh should continue to get everyday reps over this season’s final couple weeks in hopes of locking down a big league job in 2022. Juan Lagares, Taylor Ward and utility men Phil Gosselin, Jose Rojas and Kean Wong are among the other options to see time on the grass through the end of the year.
- Alex Cobb threw three simulated innings yesterday, and Angels manager Joe Maddon told Jeff Fletcher of The Orange County Register (Twitter links) that Cobb could potentially be activated off the 10-day IL for a start this week. Cobb has been out of action since July 30 due to right wrist inflammation. Despite this missed time and an earlier injured-list stint due to blister problems, Cobb has been one of the Angels’ better starters this year, with a 3.82 ERA/3.65 SIERA, 53.8% grounder rate, and a career-best 25.7% strikeout rate over 77 2/3 innings.
- Also from Maddon, he announced that right-hander Chris Rodriguez has been shut down for the remainder of the season. Rodriguez has been on the minor league IL due to a lat strain for almost a month, and he also spent a month on the Angels’ injured list due to shoulder inflammation earlier this season. Injuries have plagued Rodriguez for much of his pro career, though he did make his MLB debut this year, and posted a respectable 3.64 ERA over 29 2/3 innings (starting two of 15 games).
- Dylan Bundy is “very confident” that he’ll be able to return to the Angels before the season is through, the right-hander told The Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher and other reporters. Wednesday saw Bundy throw his first bullpen session since being placed on the 10-day IL with a shoulder strain back on August 25, and Bundy said the plan is for another bullpen on Saturday. It remains to be seen if Bundy will be able to build up enough strength to make it back, or if he has already thrown his last pitch as an Angel, considering Bundy is a free agent this winter. “As far as free agency, the only thing I’m thinking about is not being on the IL at the end of the year,” Bundy said. Bundy has struggled to a 6.06 ERA/4.55 SIERA over 90 2/3 innings,
This will be the second stint on the injured list for Upton this year, after missing almost a month with a low back strain earlier in the season. He’s only played in three games over the past couple weeks, perhaps because of this injury, but also because the Angels are out of contention and have been increasingly using playing time to audition youngsters such as Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell.
Upton still has one season remaining on the five-year deal he signed with the club back in November of 2017. The 34-year-old will be making $28MM next year. The first year of the deal went well, as Upton slashed .257/.344/.463, for a wRC+ of 121 in 2018. But the three subsequent seasons have all been disappointing, with a collective slash line of .211/.296/.409 and a wRC+ of 93.
Because of the remaining playing time going to those younger players, the club can let Upton focus on getting healthy and hopefully finding some of his former, more-productive form in the last year of his deal.